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<nettime> Forms of decisionism
Brian Holmes on Fri, 15 Jul 2016 12:42:32 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Forms of decisionism


Past a certain point of chaos, the question is no longer whether or
not to enter a state of exception. The question is when, how, with
whom, by what means, and to what ends.

The idea of a "social order" is very similar to the idea of "the sun
rising in the morning." It may be cloudy, the horizon may be unusually
dark, but you know the sun will rise. It may be tense, we may not all
agree, but you know that no one is going to start driving a truck
through a crowd of revelers, or firing an assault rifle during a
public demonstration. When those things happen, not just once, but
again and again, then the social order has begun unraveling. You no
longer know what will arise the next morning.

Can we ask what this means while it is unraveling? How to decide on a
pathway through chaos, when there is no longer a choice not to start
moving very fast?

Knowing how to act means knowing what the others are doing. But
that's already acting because it means actively deciding what and
who you know. Throughout the Western societies, the decision about
what is happening is being taken in the forms of racism, classism,
nationalism, xenophobia. They are acting on their knowledge of the
other. With Brexit, we have already seen that such knowledge can
produce a radical rupture in the constitution of the present. But
how many people have still not decided what is going on? How many
people still do not know that society is on the verge of major
transformation? Quite a lot, I think. In the face of the racist
classist nationaist xenophobes, that sort of indecision has become
dangerous.

Some of us, many of us no doubt, have decided to know the world very
differently. We know that a social order worthy of the name has
not existed for generations of people who can't leave their homes,
or even shelter within them, without fearing the consequences of a
falling bomb or a policeman's arbitrary trigger. We know that for
these others, the world broke long ago. And we know that the violence
currently tearing through *our* social order is, in large part, a
violence produced by that same order. We know that increasing numbers
of individuals have decided that under such conditions, the sun will
never rise again. They come back from Afghanistan -- whether it's a
terrorist training camp or a soldier's tour of duty, no matter -- and
they lash out with a world-changing hatred. They are a social fact
of the present. They're not going away too soon. We know we have to
deal with them. We also know that it means dealing with a form of
alienation at the core of our own existence.

In Dallas, at the policemen's funeral, Obama woke up from his drone
presidency and said the kinds of things that we elected him for seven
years ago. He said this:

"As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools. We allow
poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for
gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health
programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for
a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a
book. And then we tell the police, 'You're a social worker; you're the
parent; you're the teacher; you're the drug counselor.' We tell them
to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs and do so without
causing any political blowback or inconvenience; don't make a mistake
that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise
when periodically the tensions boil over."

What does it mean? Your world cannot be whole when someone else's is
broken. Europe, America, the suburbs, the white folks, cannot go on
stomping on everyone else and expect to live in peace. But the drone
president, the deportation president, has not acted on that knowledge.
Because complacent society has just been waiting for the end of the
recession and the next upswing.

It's time to accept that normalcy no longer exists. The world is on
the edge of some new form of order. You can't appeal to the past,
to the constitution, to due process, to human rights, to your bank
account, to anything. Either we decide to know in our bones and in our
acts that inequality is aleady a state of emergency both nationally
and internationally, or the racist classist nationalist xenophobes
are going to decide on their own pathway. And it could easily become
something comparable to the last big round of authoritarianism and
global war.

Who decides? Which sovereign? Which state of exception?



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